A college football coach wears many hats. Strategist. Motivator. Disciplinarian. Public liaison. Dozens others.
Add one more. Jersey number distributor.
Like every spring, OU has a rash of number changes. All approved by Bob Stoops, though he estimates he spends no more than five minutes on the subject.
Sometimes, it can get dicey. In the 2013 recruiting class, the Sooners signed three players who apparently wanted No. 1: L.J. Moore, Dominique Alexander and K.J. Young. Moore ended up with it. Alexander took 42, Young 85. Now Moore is off the team, and both Alexander and Young have been given No. 1.
Stoops offered no clue why L.J. Moore won that lottery.
“I have a problem with double numbers, too,” Stoops said of the rule that allows teammates to wear the same number, so long as they aren’t on the field at the same time. “If there’s any chance they’ll be on the same special team, then they can’t have the same number. If someone already has it, they have to wait on it until that one becomes available.”
The double number rule is absurd. Everyone get a separate number and move on down the road.
Stoops admitted that number requests sometimes are part of the recruiting process, “and you have to say ‘Welllllllll, yeah,’” Stoops said. “Other times it’s requested” after campus arrival, and the equipment crew will check with Stoops.
“A lot of times, generally, I’ll wait to see which one’s going to play,” Stoops said. “It’s a work in progress all the time. Massaging all those numbers. There are eighty-five scholarship guys that want a single digit.”
Stoops said defensive linemen Charles Tapper and Jordan Phillips requested single-digit numbers. “I said, ‘really?’” Stoops said.
Stoops was asked if Adrian Peterson requested 28 while being recruited, even though OU already had a star player, Antonio Perkins, wearing the number. “Could have been,” Stoops said. “It was ‘wear whatever number you want.’”
But Stoops most players realize that there’s a pecking order. “Generally, the guys understand, I also won’t let some young guy take your number,” Stoops said. “If there’s an issue there, the younger guy’s gotta wait for it.”
Most number changes come from offensive ballhandlers.
Of the 11 number changes at OU this spring, seven are from receivers: Young, Dannon Cavil from 6 to 7, Austin Bennett from 83 to 8, Jordan Smallwood from 80 to 17, Ashton Bennett from 89 to 37, Austin Brown from 81 to 87 and Grant Bothun from 29 to 84, even though as No. 29 he had the famous touchdown pass to Michael Hunnicut on the Bedlam fake field goal. The others are Alexander, fullback Joe Palange from 41 to 47, guard Dylan Hartsock from 73 to 64 and Sam Grant from 81 to 76, because he’s changed positions, from tight end to tackle.